Vitamin Intake – How Do I Know I’m Taking the Right Vitamins?
By: Jennifer Smith
Vitamin intake has reached an all-time high. According to the Center for Responsible Nutrition Consumer Survey, 77% of Americans take some type of vitamin. Selfcare practices- nutrition, fitness and mindfulness- are on every social platform and wellness app.
Vitamin intake is a great remedy to offset nutrients that are lacking in diet, which happens for most of us. More than 94% of Americans are deficient in at least one nutrient. But that doesn’t mean 94% of Americans need a full, complete multivitamin. In fact, most people with healthy diets probably only need a few nutrients to round out their intake. Consumers don’t really know what they should be taking. So, they grab a multi, hope for the best, and then change again when they don’t see results.
This leaves one question on the mind of most consumers of vitamins: How do I know I’m taking the right ones?
Who takes vitamins?
Chances are if you don’t, most of your friends do.
Based on the CRN survey, men (74%) and women (79%) over 18 take vitamins for various needs.
75% bookend the parenting spectrum. 83% of them have kids at home, so moms and dads are looking to improve their nutrition to help with energy and focus and generally feel less tired. Parents give their kids vitamins.
So for most Americans, vitamin intake is a regular routine that spans across your life.
What are they taking?
The most common type of vitamin consumed is a multivitamin, even though large studies have shown that multivitamin intake can have negative outcomes for some populations. 58% percent of Americans are still taking a multivitamin, which may or may not be right for them. Only 31% of Americans take vitamin D, yet more than 94% of the population is deficient in vitamin D. These statistics do not match.
Vitamins come in pill form, liquid, powder and many are now taking them intravenously. Nearly every possible combination is available. The wide spectrum of availability is actually a really good thing. The problem comes in when consumers try to navigate those options. An interior designer doesn’t walk into the house with a portfolio that includes an entire market worth of products. They narrow it down for their clients.
The vitamin market was the wild west. Previously, there was no way for you know the type, brand and dosage that’s right for you.
How do I know what to take?
Like everyone else, unless your doctor gives you guidance, you just make your best guess. You ask your friends what their taking. You stand for what feels like forever looking at the vitamin labels. You buy it. Repeat.
But science is telling us that you are different from your friend. Precision nutrition plays a critical role in how your body uses and reacts to how you approach nutrition. A personalized strategy will help you navigate which vitamins are right for you, so you and your friend can optimize your intake based on your individual needs.
Your physician can give you guidance on vitamin intake. Most simply don’t have time to truly navigate this for you alone. So the advice is generalized. Some physicians, especially integrative physicians, run in depth testing and can help you navigate. But you still have to go the vitamin aisle and choose. Without a physician or health coach, what do you do?
Why is personalized intake important?
The vitamin market of late has done a great job at bringing high quality, clean products to market. Daily selfcare habits are reflecting that interest and demand. The problem consumers now face is not availability, but navigation. Understanding what vitamin and the dosage that’s right for you is personal. A physician would not prescribe medication without knowing your history, your biological parameters. They don’t look at your friends and say, “Sure, take that.”
Medication intake is acute. The response is rapid. So current medical standards dictate a higher level of care when navigating intake. Research is now showing us (and has been for some time) that precision nutrition is just as important for long term outcomes. And, now with chronic disease skyrocketing, the need is great. The wrong multivitamin taken over a long duration is associated with chronic disease. The wave of chronic disease that is now overwhelming our healthcare system is substantial and it cannot hold its weight for much longer. Healthcare practictioners are scrambling to figure out how to adjust. Every single insurance company and hospital system in this country and across the globe spends the majority of their cost on 5% of the population. That very small portion of their members and patients costs them the most because they are the ones with chronic disease. Yet, no one has solved the problem because they don’t treat the individual.
The answer to the problem lies in the way we treat our bodies before developing disease. And its personal.
You wouldn’t give a medication without knowing the patient’s specific needs. And you shouldn’t take vitamins without knowing what vitamin is right for you- not based on what’s right for your friend.
This applies to all wellness categories. Nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness. These strategies are all effective, but have to be designed thoughtfully with each individual in mind.
Precision nutrition will help alleviate the burden on the healthcare system, and that directly relates to improved care for you and reduced costs. The application of this concept has already shown promise. Forward momentum – if done correctly – will likely get us to the other side of this crisis.
What’s right for me?
Precision medicine is nuanced. Every person is different from each other and different from themselves at various periods of life. There are a variety of considerations involved in determining your individuals needs and that changes with life stage. Lifestyle factors, such as diet, fitness, mindfulness, and genetics play a role in determining your best fit. Within those categories, nuances are dependent on age, daily fluctuation and overall patterns in dietary intake, length and type of fitness routines, your approach to mindfulness, and mutations in genetic makeup.
- Consuming a healthy, balanced diet with optimal levels of micronutrients will increase your likelihood of living a long, healthy life.
- Even in healthy diets, statistically you will probably be deficient in at least one of the 30 essential vitamins and minerals. A personalized vitamin strategy can help you individual your intake to fill the gaps.
- You are what you eat. Think about where you source your food and the environment in which they thrive. Food sources with significant amounts of pesticides or suboptimal growing conditions will result in less than optimal food, and possibly lead to negative long-term outcomes.
- The microbiome is a relatively new area of science, but an important one. Research has shown that what you eat changes your microbiome makeup and can significantly alter how you absorb and utilize nutrients. It’s an important piece of your individualized strategy.
- Exercise induces many key hormones that improve overall wellness.
- Physiological responses differ drastically, depending on the type and length of exercise.
- Keep in mind that research has indicated continued long distance or endurance routines may have a negative effect to do oxidative stress.
- Exercise influences the microbiome. Research has shown that exercise improves the integrity of the gut epithelium and provides an optimal environment for the microbiome to thrive.
- There is good stress. And then there is bad stress. The sympathetic pathway is initiated during fight or flight, and it is a normal human response. The human body was design to stay in the parasympathetic state- rest and digest- for the majority of the day. Yet, almost everything we do these days keeps us in a sympathetic state. Research is clear that a high stress, chronic sympathetic state leads to decreased nutrient absorption.
- Breathwork, meditation improve stress signals significantly leading to improved nutrient absorption, but why?
- The microbiome is the gateway between the brain-gut axis. Stress hormones and the microbiome are interrelated and nutrient absorption is effected as a result.
- The human genome opened the possibility of understanding and navigating need based on individual genetic makeup.
- Genetic variations define individualized nutrigenetics- the daily nutritional requirements and response in individuals. This need is different from person to person.
- Nutrigenomics characterizes the impact of nutrients on disease expression.
- The microbiome has significant effects on the expression of genes, because it is on the front lines of regulating absorption of nutrients.
All four of these pillars are interdependent and play a major role in the type and dose of vitamins you need to optimize your health.
You wouldn’t take medication without knowing its right for you. Why would you take vitamins without understanding your needs?